The Rowan University softball team, who saw a 35-10 record last season along with a New Jersey Athletic Conference (NJAC) Championship and a trip to the NCAA Division III Regionals, opens up the season this Friday, March 3, in North Carolina for the Grand Slam Triangle Classic.
While the team has lost some of its powerhouse seniors and are rolling out a younger, but higher-ceiling lineup, Head Coach Kim Wilson wants the team to understand the expectation right away.
“They know that there’s a legacy here, and they know that we’re expected to be in the top 25 every year, we’re expected to win the conference,” Coach Wilson said.
Although the team will be without the two All-Americans with All NJAC First-Team Outfielder Morgan Zane and NJAC Pitcher of the Year Emily August graduating, the team is in good hands with sophomore Rylee Lutz leading the pitching staff.
With the team getting younger, this sophomore understands that her role has changed. Now, she is viewed as one of the veterans on the team.
“It means that all of the hard work, leading up to this my whole life, is finally getting shown out there,” Lutz said. “It is a little bit stressful because I feel like I am looked on more because I am younger and higher up now, but I have more confidence in myself.”
Lutz, who went 13-3 in 17 starts in the circle last season, posted a 1.83 ERA and 1.33 WHIP while striking out 71 batters and holding opponents to a .247 batting average, wants to continue off of her impressive freshman campaign.
“Some of my goals are just to dominate, especially being younger still, I want to prove that I can step up into that higher level,” Lutz said.
Lutz’s impressive freshman season didn’t just stop with the numbers, as she was rewarded with an All-NJAC Second Team honor last season, and Coach Wilson knows that her young pitcher will continue to bring it this upcoming season.
“We’re young, but Rylee was 13-3 last year,” Coach Wilson said. “We haven’t had somebody that’s a sophomore come in and have those number. So I think she got a lot of experience, she’ll be our leader even though she’s young, the other kids are learning from her and she’s continuing to get better.”
Even after a strong 2022 campaign, Lutz is constantly working to improve. She is specifically looking to improve her movement and deception in her arsenal of pitches.
“Definitely moving a lot more pitches, definitely different eye levels,” Lutz said. “Anything to try and get the batter guessing, trying not to show my pitches as much so they [the batter] doesn’t really know what is going on.”
With just being a sophomore and the team being on the younger side, Lutz knows that she has a responsibility to try and help teach the younger pitchers in anyway she can.
“I’m definitely trying to get the other pitchers to know how to throw in college, because it is a big learning step,” Lutz said. “I’m not only trying to push them to be more confident, but to have more faith in themselves and be able to throw their pitches and move them.”
All in all, Coach Wilson is excited for the season to start and is looking forward to seeing all the different types of ways the team can win a game in.
“We work hard every day,” Coach Wilson said. “And we’re the type of team where it doesn’t matter whether you’re a freshman or sophomore, it doesn’t matter you can be a leader for us. I think we’re going to be exciting to watch, and I think we’re going to be able to win in a lot of different ways, it can be the homerun ball, bunt for a base hit, it could be play good defense, get good pitching, it’s going to be exciting to watch us.”
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